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A commons-based map of economic realms

These diagrams present economic dynamics in a concentric circles model which frames human economics as functioning within - and dependent on - the larger economies of nature - what might be called the natural and spiritual commons. It also presents a layer of human commons within which the community economics of gifting and sharing take place. It suggests that exchange - which currently dominates our conceptions of economics - is properly conceived of as only one smaller part of a much bigger economic picture, and that the monetized economy is even smaller than that. It further proposes that purely speculative economic activities that have no direct relationship to actual productive activity - abstract investments and trades that currently make up the majority of financial transactions globally - should be minimized or eliminated, or at least strictly managed where they colonize or harm the more productive sectors of the economy.

"The commons" is a sufficiently new concept as to warrant explanation here. The commons is a generic term embracing all that we hold and use in common. It is most readily understood as our shared lands, spaces, atmosphere, natural resources, natural systems and the "eco-system services" that those natural systems perform (like purifying our air and water). But it also includes our genetic heritage; our cultures, languages and institutions; our economics and politics; our sidewalks, streets, utilities, internet, and other infrastructure; our accumulated and co-created knowledge; and the human and social resources of our communities and relationships. Many people also believe that we share a common spiritual reality and heritage. In short, whatever we all have access to - or should have access to - is our commons. The economic view of "the commons" has been developing rapidly in the last few decades as we acknowledge how thoroughly we depend on the larger social, cultural, and natural bounty that surrounds and precedes us -- and thus how we need to treasure, preserve, and support the commons as fundamental to our existence.


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